Since the Lawrence City Commission in August 2020 approved creating historical markers to memorialize the 1970 police killings of two teenagers, the process to bring those markers to fruition has been slow, but it is moving forward.
As an epilogue to The Lawrence Times eight-part series on the death of Nick Rice in July 1970, read a personal account of the night’s events from a bystander just feet away from Rice when he was killed.
The KBI will, at least temporarily, continue to keep in the dark records that could finally shed light on a case of police violence that has been imprinted in the fabric of Lawrence for exactly 51 years.
In the nine months since the Lawrence City Commission unanimously approved creating historical markers to memorialize two teenagers killed by Lawrence police, the conversation on what those markers might look like, where they’ll be placed, and how much they’ll cost has mostly gone silent.
For years after Nick Rice’s death, his family fielded an untold number of letters, phone calls and the occasional in-person visitor telling them Nick deserved what he got.
KBI laboratory testing released 50 years after Nick Rice was killed revealed that a bullet found almost exactly where the teen’s body lay was fired from the gun of Officer Jimmy Joe Stroud. But a Lawrence police captain had tampered with that evidence, rendering it inadmissible.
There were so many questions surrounding Nick Rice’s death in Lawrence in July 1970, but most local media failed to ask them. Instead, false narratives were allowed to thrive.
Nick Rice was shot and killed in the 1200 block of Oread Avenue on the night of July 20, 1970 — an innocent bystander in a crowd of more than 150 protesters. These key figures were involved in Nick’s life, his death, and the subsequent investigation.
The KBI determined that Nick Rice was not the man who tried to torch a car on KU’s campus in July 1970. But following his death, local officials sowed doubt about that fact in public statements. Even five decades later, one former officer likened Rice to BTK or John Wayne Gacy.
Hours after Nick Rice was killed in July 1970, Lawrence police officer Jimmy Joe Stroud asked authorities if he’d be charged with shooting the teen. But then the coverup began.
Five decades later, Stroud still says “They didn’t have no evidence.”
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